CE28 - Cognition, éducation, formation

Auditory hallucinations: the role of Cognitive-Affective and Sensorial processes – AH-CASE

Submission summary

Auditory hallucinations (AH) are among the most frequent and disturbing experiences described by individuals with psychosis and other mental and neurological disorders. AH are also present in the general population. The adoption of a symptom-focused approach has led to significant improvements to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying AH and the design of psychological interventions. A prominent model of AH proposed by Waters et al. (2012) highlights the importance of bottom-up (auditory signals) and top-down mechanisms. Top-down mechanisms include biases in signal detection under ambiguity, hypervigilance, over-reliance on prior knowledge, as well as affective mechanisms (e.g., anxiety). In the current ANR project, we seek to further understand the bottom-up and top-down mechanisms associated with AH, which have been rarely explored together. More specifically, our first goal is to evaluate the role of bottom-up aspects and, our second goal, to develop experimental tasks to manipulate the effect of anxiety-related processes (e.g., hypervigilance) other top-down mechanisms (e.g., overreliance on priors) on AH. To reach this aim, this project will propose four studies. In the first study, we will test a novel auditory signal detection task (aSDT) to evaluate participants’ propensity to make false alarms (FA) and test the association between basic auditory processes and AH. The aSDT has been used to evaluate the role of top-down processing on AH. Hallucinating individuals tend to show a bias toward reporting more FA, that is, reporting to hear a speech embedded in noise when it is not present. In this first study, we will propose a new auditory stimulus designed for human hearing. In the second study, our goal is to replicate the study by Dudley et al.’s (2014) and thus determine whether anxiety induction would lead to increase FA as well as extend their findings by exploring whether anxiety induction would also lead individuals to rely more on prior knowledge when perceiving ambiguous stimuli (predictive processing framework). This study will be the first to address the gap between the predictive processing framework and the experimental psychopathology research on hallucinations while also considering the role of emotional and social aspects of AH. Our two final studies aim at exploring whether discriminative fear learning is involved in the persistence of hallucinations with negative content. While study 3 will employ the classical Pavlov conditioning paradigm blended with an aSDT, in study 4, we will develop a new task using a virtual reality environment to simulate daily life situations that individuals may encounter when they hear voices. Therefore, this ANR project will contribute to research by honing current models of AH and, consequently, providing, indirectly, guidance for future psychological therapeutic strategies. More specifically, these studies will teach us how these top-down and bottom-up mechanisms interact in explaining AH in laboratory settings and experimental conditions that simulate daily life functioning. Understanding these interactions will allow the development of cognitive models that grasp the interactive nature of symptoms and related mechanisms. Importantly, this project will be developed within an atmosphere of replication, research transparency and pre-registration. The results will be presented at different conferences and submitted in peer-review journals. Dr Catherine Bortolon, Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology, will be the scientific coordinator of the project. She has great experience in the domain of AH as well as her collaborators. This project will be a great opportunity for her to strengthen her research on hallucinations, start new collaborations, consolidate old ones, direct a PhD student, and organise the first ECHR (Early Career group on Hallucination Research) meeting in France.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 207,752 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2022 - 42 Months

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